In contrast to the visual system, the auditory system has longer subcortical pathways and more spiking synapses between the peripheral receptors and the cortex. This unique organization reflects the needs of the auditory system to extract behaviorally relevant information from a complex acoustic environment using strategies different from those used by other sensory systems. The neural representations of acoustic information in auditory cortex can be characterized by three types: (1) isomorphic (faithful) representations of acoustic structures; (2) non-isomorphic transformations of acoustic features and (3) transformations from acoustical to perceptual dimensions. The challenge facing auditory neurophysiologists is to understand the nature of the latter two transformations. In this article, I will review recent studies from our laboratory regarding temporal discharge patterns in auditory cortex of awake marmosets and cortical representations of time-varying signals. Findings from these studies show that (1) firing patterns of neurons in auditory cortex are dependent on stimulus optimality and context and (2) the auditory cortex forms internal representations of sounds that are no longer faithful replicas of their acoustic structures.
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